When we speak of mentoring and community, we speak of giving and engaging. We talk about passing on and being part of something much larger and more significant than yourself.
Being a member of a larger community that is both connected to your business and yet is outside of your business is one of the marks of a mature business owner. Those whose entire lives are spent on their businesses tend to be those who are tired, isolated and living on the edge of burnout.
Mentoring involves being both a receiver and a giver. Mentoring is essential to professional growth, no matter your age.
Being a Mentor to Others
When you’re the giver, mentoring means that you invest your person and experience into one or more individuals who learn from you and grow both professionally and personally. Mentoring another means accepting a significant responsibility to model what you teach and the willingness to be imitated.
It seems to me that mentoring means the following:
- The willingness to invest in another with no assurance of success
- The willingness to have your own life examined, your beliefs tested and your methods replicated
- The willingness to become the standard in life and practice for others to attain
- A giving back to the community all that God has given and taught you
Mentoring is a significant, intentional activity in which we invest ourselves in others so that they will become better than they ever thought possible with the resources that God has already given. Paul wrote in Philippians:
“Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the patterns we gave you.” (3.17)
Later in the same letter, Paul wrote this:
“Whatever you have learned or seen in me – put it into practice” (4.9)
Paul was not hesitant about putting himself – his person and work – out there as a standard of practice for others to follow.
Elisha followed Elijah all those years and was mentored by him to carry on the ministry that God had entrusted to Elijah. Elijah invested himself into Elisha. It wasn’t always fun and games. At the end of his life, Elijah kept asking Elisha to stay back while he went on, but Elisha kept refusing. Elijah’s repetitive tests of persistence and perseverance paid off handsomely for Elisha (you’ll recall that he received the mantel of God and was able to part the waters of the Jordan because the Spirit was resting on him), but it came at a great cost – the loss of his mentor and teacher – Elijah.
You see, mentoring isn’t about didactic teaching. Instead, it is about sharing your life with your mentee so that they become better than you. At times, they will criticize you to your face. And they will absorb your negative habits as well as your qualities.
We don’t generally pursue others to mentor them. Instead, we wait for them to approach us. But if they do, ask yourself this question before entering into a formal mentoring relationship:
“Where will this person be after they are done following me?”
Perhaps the answer to this question will help you understand if you’re ready to invest yourself into another person. Teachers will incur a stricter judgment than those who do not teach. Be aware of this. So be sure that your life is living out the other aspects of this CBRA and be sure that God is leading you to be a mentor. Pouring your life into another person is no small matter and yet, without constant mentoring, the wisdom of experience that God has poured into us will be lost on the following generations.
Being Mentored by Others
Who do you go to when you get “stuck” in your business? Many business owners have a group of trusted advisors – those to whom they turn when they need help. Common trusted advisors are:
- Lawyers: good lawyers will save you a ton of money and help protect you and your business in a highly litigious environment
- Accountants: most use accountants for tax work. A minority will use them for bookkeeping.
- Bankers: most need and want a line of credit, but after that is supplied, many business owners talk little with their bankers. Frankly, if there is any bad news about the business, they want the banker to be the last to know because they fear losing their credit lines
- Human resource specialists: HR Professionals are increasingly become important to small business owners as they try to navigate the complex and costly areas of benefits, hiring and firing and general employee issues
Other trusted advisors may include financial planners, family business advisors, executive coaches or lean process advisors.
What is troubling is that most Christian business owners rarely view their pastors as a trusted advisor. The role of a Pastor in the life of their parishioners is so limited that it’s not unusual for a pastor to not speak directly with a member of their congregation for weeks, perhaps months. For most people who attend the average church, the role of their Pastor is one of a trained professional who delivers sermons on Sunday mornings and is a nice guy with whom to shake hands. Beyond that, little interaction is needed. I know of people who have been members of a church for 20 years with the same pastor and not once did they break bread together. Hence, given the limited and frankly distant relationship most business owners have with their pastor, it’s not difficult to understand why their Pastor is not viewed as a trusted advisor.
In addition, most Christian business owners wouldn’t have a clear understanding of how their Pastor can help them grow their business. Business owners understand why they have lawyers, accountants, financial planners, bankers and so forth as trusted advisors – but Pastors? Why Pastors? In our experience, there is a disconnect in the mind of the average Christian business owner as to why s/he would need to consult with a pastor about their business.
On the flip side, I can’t recall any Christian business owner talking about how encouraged they were when their pastor showed up to pray with them about their business.
It seems to me that the bridge between Christian business owners and Pastors – more fully, the church – is stewardship theology. Most pastors had zero stewardship training in their seminary experience. Look at the courses offered in the standard Master of Divinity program and you’ll see that stewardship is non-existent in most of our prominent seminaries. What get’s emphasized in seminary is what get’s done in churches ten, twenty and thirty years hence. Since stewardship is such an under-emphasized area of study – even though money and wealth is one of the most often discussed topics in the Bible – it is understandable as to why the average Christian business owner rarely thinks about or has quandaries about their stewardship responsibility before the Lord.
Hence, when most Christian business owners get “stuck”, they usually see this a business problem, not a spiritual or stewardship problem. They will consult with other trusted advisors if the problem is clearly in that advisor’s domain. Less often, they will talk with other business owners. But rarely will they seek prayer support from their pastor or church. It just doesn’t cross their mind.
Moreover, in one survey we conducted here at Bible and Business, we discovered that ~80% of those who own businesses do not belong to some type of professional peer group.
It appears that is one area where Christian business owners are lacking and most don’t even know it.
Christian Business Owners are members of a community. They are respected (or should have the stature to earn other’s respect) and contributing members of society. We attend community events and become active in shaping the laws and culture of our community. We are not isolated.
There are different communities in which we live as business owners. Within these communities, everything in our hearts will be laid bare for others to see. Our blind spots – our strengths – all is open for others to see and evaluate.
Most Christian Business Owners are members of a church community.
We are all members of our town or city community. Some choose to be highly active while others choose to do little to further their communities. I believe being active in your civic community is part of our stewardship obligation to fulfill Christ’s commands in Matthew 5:
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
God has called us to be salt and light in a decaying world. Salt retards decay and light provides direction. Our involvement in our cities and towns from a civic perspective is vital to our communities being successful. Depending on how God leads you, this may mean running for school board or the city council. It may mean serving on a board or using profits from your business to partner with your community leaders to solve a social problem. Being active in your community in a way that brings glory to Jesus Christ is part and parcel of being a Christian Business Owner.
Unless you were hatched in some barn, you are part of a family system. That doesn’t change when you become a business owner. What does change is your responsibilities within your immediate and extended families.
Moreover, if you’re highly successful in your business, you’ll likely be given leader status in your family. Family members will look up to you and your opinion will carry more weight. Remember that to whom much is given, must is required. You’re words, actions and advise must carry with it the wisdom and character of God.